The hard work of the Jewish people in slavery in Egypt

* This article is an excerpt from the above Sefer

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  1. The work:[1]

Pharaoh appointed tax collectors to make the Jewish people work in hard labor, and had them build cities of storage for Pharaoh, the cities of Pithom and Raamses. The more the Jews were oppressed, the more they multiplied. The Egyptians became disgusted by the Jewish people. The Egyptians enslaved the Jews with crushing labor. They were worked with hard labor involving mortar and bricks and every labor of the field. All the labors they performed were crushing and back breaking work. The more they were worked the more they multiplied, and the more disgusted the Egyptians became.

  The labor system:[2]

Pharaoh created the following system of labor: He appointed Egyptian taskmasters who were in charge of the appointed Jewish policemen. The Jewish policemen were in charge of making sure that their Jewish slave workers completed the daily quotas required for labor. 

The hard labor:[3]

Chazal describe the hard labor in the following ways, including the following activities:

  1. Plowing
  2. Planting
  3. Throwing garbage and sewage
  4. Digging wells
  5. He placed work of females onto males and work of males onto females. Thus, men had to cook, bake and do laundry, while women had to work the fields and chop wood in the forests.
  6. He forced them to make bricks using bad quality earth which would cause the bricks to break and need to be constantly repaired.
  7. The men were obligated to sleep in the fields while the women were obligated to sleep in the city.
  8. He made them work also at night.


The tribe of Levi:[4]

The tribe of Levi was exempt from the slave work in Egypt.[5] There are several reasons offered behind this:

  1. As they were destined to serve in the Temple, and therefore G-d did not desire to enslave them and did not give power to the Egyptians to do so.
  2. As the tribe of Levi did not nullify the Mitzvah of Mila and the Egyptians therefore feared their strength.

The Jewish people multiply despite the slavery:[6]

Although the men were exhausted from the daily work, and remained in the field to sleep, their wives placed effort to cook good meals for them and dress up for them too. Hashem made a miracle that when the wives went to draw water, they would find a bucket filled with small fish, which would help give energy and strength to their tired husbands. They would boil to pots of water, one with the fish and one without. They would bathe their husband’s legs and feet and feed them. From the subsequent unity many children were born.


[1] Shemos 1:11-14

[2] Shemos Raba; Meiam Loez Shemos Chapter p. 30 [new edition]

[3] Shemos Raba; Tanchuma; Meiam Loez Shemos Chapter p. 30 [new edition]

[4] Meiam Loez Shemos Chapter p. 29 [new edition]

[5] Shemos Raba 48; Ramban; Hagahos Maimanis Hilchos Avoda Zara;

[6] Sotah; Shemos Raba 8; Meiam Loez Shemos Chapter p. 31 [new edition]

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